In the case of Cupid v Premier Global Ltd ET/2200235/2017 the Employment Tribunal found that a former employee who had been called “childish” after complaining of discrimination had been discriminated against, and awarded the claimant over £55,000 in compensation.
Factual background in Cupid v Premier Global Ltd
Premier Global Ltd (“Premier”) is a company that sells training and qualification courses for personal trainers.
Mr Cupid was employed from 24 August 2015 as a ‘course adviser’, a sales role in Premier’s sales team. The sales team was highly competitive and focused. Mr Cupid was provided with a contract of employment which stated that the business operated a non-contractual disciplinary procedure. Employees would be subjected to this disciplinary procedure even if they did not have two years’ continuous employment (the threshold necessary to bring a claim for unfair dismissal).
By January 2016 Mr Cupid was hitting targets and was performing well. In his February 2016 appraisal it was noted that Mr Cupid was a quick learner, that he consistently achieved sales targets, and that he had a “calm manner”. Mr Cupid also passed his probation period at this point.
On 1 October 2016 a new Commercial Director joined the business. This new Commercial Director, Mr Williams, took a ‘no-nonsense’ approach to the business of the company and was employed to improve the company’s performance – one of the means that Mr Williams used to improve performance was to dismiss under-performing employees and, in cases where employees did not have two years’ continuous employment, to dismiss without any procedure being used.
On 20 October 2016 Mr Cupid started a shift at 8.30am. About a week previously Premier had introduced a new system to monitor employees’ performance, including monitoring telephone calls. The system showed that Mr Cupid had undertaken very few telephone calls that morning and he was called into a meeting with a couple of managers, Ms Prentice and Ms Thornton. The managers said that Mr Cupid had engaged in little sales activity that day. Mr Cupid complained that he felt that he was being unfairly singled out, and that he felt that this treatment was because of his skin colour. Ms Prentice then said to him “don’t be childish”, or words to that effect. Mr Cupid was then told that, should he wish to submit a formal complaint of discrimination, he should contact Mrs Chappell, another manager. Ms Prentice was upset by Mr Cupid’s complaint of discrimination against her – she came to the opinion that Mr Cupid was aggressive and became reticent to deal with him.
Mr Cupid decided not to submit a formal complaint of discrimination, as he was performing well and achieving bonus targets. He felt that he didn’t want to cause trouble for himself. A sales record dated 11 November 2016 showed that he continued to perform well, and it was likely that he would have received a substantial bonus.
On 15 December 2016 Mr Cupid returned from a period of holiday, some of which had been spent in Brazil. He was due to work the early shift on 15 December 2016 but mistakenly believed he was due to undertake the late shift. He therefore attended the late shift (which he was late to any way). He also said that he did not want to undertake coaching that had been arranged for him with a consultant, Mr Chapman, as he felt tired. Mr Chapman reported to Mr Williams that Mr Cupid had turned up late for the coaching and that he had had a negative attitude to the training.
On 19 December 2016 Mr Williams decided, in conjunction with Ms Prentice, to dismiss Mr Cupid for the reason that he felt he had a poor attitude, that this would not change, and that a dismissal procedure was therefore not necessary – Mr Williams asked Ms Prentice’s opinion on whether Mr Cupid should be dismissed and she stated that she thought he should be.
The Employment Tribunal’s decision
The Employment Tribunal held that Mr Cupid had been subjected to direct race discrimination in the decision to dismiss him – it held that, prior to the complaint of discrimination by Mr Cupid, Mr Cupid was seen as ‘calm’ and as a productive employee, whereas after 20 October 2016 Ms Prentice viewed him as being “aggressive”. The Tribunal found that the reason for Ms Prentice’s change in attitude was the complaint of discrimination that Mr Cupid had made – this was why she felt “scared” of Mr Cupid and why she considered him to be “aggressive”. The Tribunal found that, but for the complaint of discrimination, he would not have been dismissed, and that the real reason for the dismissal was therefore the complaint of discrimination.
The Tribunal also held that the comment that Mr Cupid was being “childish” also constituted direct race discrimination – the reason for this comment was because he had made a complaint of race discrimination.
The Employment Tribunal awarded Mr Cupid over £55,000 as compensation, comprised of £15,000 for injury to feelings, interest, past loss of earnings of £16,275.06, future loss of earnings of £11,270.70, and an ACAS uplift of £6,548.40. The Tribunal also ‘grossed up’ by 20% to account for tax.
Our solicitors’ comments
Chris Hadrill, a specialist employment solicitor at Redmans, commented on the case: “This case shows that employers should be extremely careful in deciding whether to dismiss employees without any form of procedure and, further, as to who should oversee any dismissal process and make the decision to dismiss. In this case the Tribunal found that the reason for dismissal was inextricably bound up with, and therefore tainted by, the complaint of discrimination that Mr Cupid had made.”
The Employment Tribunal’s decision can be found here.